|Dormant blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel lurk across the Lehigh River|
From what little I’ve been able to ascertain, Nisky Hill Cemetery was founded in 1864 as a Moravian burial ground. The original “Union Cemetery” (having nothing to do with the Grand Army of the Republic) at the eastern end of this large rectangular property, appears to have been annexed to Nisky Hill at some point in time. The old gates along the front of the cemetery (East Church Street) offer the words “UNION CEMETERY” spelled out on them in wrought iron. I will assume Bethlehem Union Cemetery predates Nisky Hill.
|Office at main entrance, Nisky Hill Cemetery|
|Interesting example of a "pre-need" cemetery monument|
While it was a bit uncomfortable being out in the elements on this bright chilly winter’s day, it was actually kind of a cake walk. After some recent visits to abandoned cemeteries where I had to climb over fences and fall out of trees, this visit to Nisky Hill was so easy it seemed like I was getting away with something! While there was snow on the ground, the roads were plowed – in fact, the gates were wide open and we drove right in! Sometimes you take such conveniences for granted. There are in fact many cemeteries I’ve visited in winter where they don’t even plow the snow off the roads or even unlock the gate! Nisky Hill Cemetery is well-maintained and safe. I would guess that the caretaker lives on site in the old office building (there was a swing set behind it).
As we made our way methodically from one mausoleum to the next, I kept thinking about the heating packets for my gloves that I left in the trunk of my car. Oh well, cold fingers are better than the bloody ones ripped up by barbed wire a few weeks ago as a result of my last cemetery exploration! Today, we had a warm running vehicle to which we could adjourn about every fifteen minutes. Pampered.
|Zinc ("White Bronze") memorial|
|Author at William H. Thomas monument|
Perhaps the most unusual monument in the entire cemetery was the one at the main entrance. Before we met up at Nisky Hill, my friends texted me about their impending arrival. This was about fifteen minutes after I arrived. I texted them back, “Meet you at the giant phallus.” I took a selfie before they got there, to help gauge the size - I am six foot two inches tall. Imagine. What would possess someone to install such a thing on one’s grave is beyond me, but apparently William H. Thomas was possessed by exactly that prior to his death in 1928. Maybe he wanted his monument to be higher than the steel stacks across the river? This sixteen-foot high tan (I swear) granite testament to the male ego stands out like a witty analogy amidst the much smaller, normal-sized grave markers that surround it.
According to Funeralwise.com, “Moravians focus on the simplicity of burial grounds. They believe in uniform, plain grave markers and inscriptions to emphasize the equality of all human beings.” Oddly, the phallus is right next to the office building so no one can ever miss it. "Equality" aside, whoever all there people were, the residents of Nisky Hill and Union Cemetery in Bethlehem, their choice of how to be remembered was personal. These markers and monuments represent their lives, their community, their collective soul. It is a varied collection.
|Older Moravian grave markers|